Jack McLoughlin's Are You Okay?" asks some extremely tough questions, up to & including the one that you see in the title of this short film. It's a short family-based drama that will have you wondering about the lengths you'd go to in order to protect the people you love - and thinking about important things like how fragile/strong the bonds between us really are. It makes you go deep into what getting help is truly all about, what it would take, how difficult it would be, and whether or not we could commit to doing everything we'd need to do in order to keep our loved ones safe…even from themselves. There's no real sugarcoating this storyline – it's taxing on the emotions, but it really does make you think long & hard about what we'd do in a situation - where a family member is right on the edge of ending it all and if we'd be capable of doing whatever is necessary to prevent that from happening. I appreciate films like these – "Are You Okay?" is intensely thought-provoking, even for a film that's well under ten minutes.
What I thought was massively effective in the direction of "Are You Okay?" is the patience that McLoughlin shows with it. Ultimately, it's about six & a half minutes long, and nothing feels like it's being rushed – and that's commendable. I think it's fair to say that we're not really being shown a ton too, but for the little information we get, it all connects - these scenes land like a punch in the gut, and we understand how dire this situation is between brother (Shaun Fagan) and sister (Sarah-Louise Chadwick). When we're talking about patience, it's really a reference to the breathability in a film like this. "Are You Okay?" could have presented a ton of backstory and details, yet essentially opts for precious few instead; even the dialogue is fairly sparse – but this is actually where the film finds its main strengths. When it comes to the raw power of emotion and making us feel something as viewers, words are arbitrary and don't often accomplish what's needed. McLoughlin seems to have a complete understanding of this, and he gets his main characters to lean into the silence with true commitment. That means long pauses in between speeches, that means tense moments where they might burst into tears, that means pensively reflecting on memories and considering the gravity of what they're saying to each other – we get to see all that without the film being bogged down by a bunch of words that could never say enough.
There's serious pain haunting "Are You Okay?" in abundance, and I have the feeling that there will be more people out there relating to its core theme than even Jack might realize. I felt like both Sarah and Shaun did an exceptional job of getting into their roles and tapping into the sadness that's required in order to pull something like "Are You Okay?" off with the precision it truly needed. At the end of the day, it's taking on a very nuanced topic that people respond to in a variety of ways – even I was somewhat taken aback by the fact that the film didn't come with a warning before it started - once I realized the heavy subject matter it was dealing with. There are triggers here, many of them emotional, and we never really know how it's going to affect us until we have a chance to process the experience in the aftermath. "Are You Okay?" is the kind of film that resonates long after you've watched it, which I'd wager is the reason it was created, to begin with; it serves as a reminder that when we're in our darkest times, we need someone to reach in and help whether we'd like them to or not.
Would I have liked a bit more to this story? Perhaps. Did "Are You Okay?" cover this entire topic within six & a half minutes? Of course not – no film could. We get a snapshot view of a situation that's already well out of control - and two characters doing their level best to find some modicum of sanity and peace. As many of you out there know & have experienced yourself with suicidal thoughts or in private battles with depression, those short moments of clarity and reprieve can be too few and far between. Jack's done a great job of communicating how lost we can be as human beings in our despair and how hard it can often be to pinpoint the actual problem. That's the trickiest aspect of depression overall; there isn't always a reason to be as sad as we become, and realizing that can make us slip even further into the void as we try to find our way through the dark back into the light. The depressed don't need to be handled with kid gloves – they simply need help. They need direction. They need care.
Jack has found a powerful way of showing that to us through the sister's actions - and through the brother's questions, we see that proof that the depressed/suicidal are still functional thinkers & very much aware. "Are You Okay?" accomplishes quite a bit on the inside of such a short timeframe, revealing a depth of emotion that most full-length movies don't even achieve. I'm giving this film four stars out of five – it's well shot and well written, armed with evocative acting & a thought-provoking script, and helmed by a director that clearly cares about the delicate nature of this subject matter - without being at all afraid to present a real perspective & point of view. It's an openly vulnerable short film, and it's really well done.